Thursday, February 24, 2011


Today is February 24. Tomorrow would have been my mother's 99th birthday so I have been thinking about that for a while. What I didn't remember until I was looking some things up today is that yesterday, February 23, was the 20th anniversary (if that is the right word) of my father's passing in 1991. So today is right between two important dates in my family history.

I recently started reading a book, "Growing Up" by Russell Baker, which started me thinking about family issues and how our outlook on our parents changes as we grow older. Baker wrote, "Children rarely want to know who their parents were before they were parents, and when age finally stirs their curiosity there is no parent left to tell them." This is, in my experience, very true.

As a son I realize how little I really know about my parents' lives other than the part I observed directly. And as a parent I realize that my sons know virtually nothing about me except as their parent. More importantly perhaps, my sons know almost nothing about my parents so there is no sense of family history, no appreciation of how their lives were shaped by their forebears.

It's too late for me to learn my parents' story from first hand accounts, but I hope I can pass along some family history to my sons, or at least give them an appreciation that their mother and I have lives other than as their parents, and maybe a desire to learn a little something about that. And while I'm at it I'll try to take more of an active interest in what's going on in their lives, too. It's amazing how out of touch you can be with your kids when they no longer live at home with you.

So I guess on this day I'm feeling nostalgic - for my parents who are no longer with me, and for my sons who have their own lives to lead. And all I can do is strive to be a better son by preserving and honoring the memory of my parents, and a better parent by providing a connection for my sons to know and understand the family that preceded them.

Dad, it doesn't seem possible that you've been gone 20 years - I still miss you. And Happy Birthday, Mom - I'll be thinking of you tomorrow and every day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm considering dumping my cable company

I've had cable tv ever since it first became available in my neighborhood, which was sometime in the early 1980s. I don't remember what the company was called then, but it has subsequently been Susquahanna, which became SUSCOM, which was bought out by COMCAST, the current provider. I've always had the basic cable package, although for a while early-on I had HBO and Cinemax, too.

Sometime in the mid-1990s I added high speed internet to the package, since the "digital age" was in full bloom and my sons were coming to an age that necessitated speedier access to the "world-wide web" than my dial-up service could provide (good-bye, AOL.) And that's pretty much been the staus quo ever since; I have not added any premium services nor upgraded to HDTV or even digital tv. And yet my monthly bill keeps going up.

This winter, since I pretty much live by myself now, I basically moved into my kitchen/dining area, where the woodstove is located, in order to reduce my heating bill. I moved a couch into the area (the dogs quiickly claimed it as their own)and put a small TV, not connected to cable, where I could watch it while staying toasty warm by the stove. The TV has rabbit ears so I can watch the local "over air" channels but if I want to watch anything on cable I have to go into the (very cold) living room. This situation led to an epiphany for me: I don't miss cable very much.

Even before I moved out of the living room I had resolved to watch less political coverage (i.e., MSNBC) and honestly, there's not much else I care to watch even with all those cable channels to choose from. I do love "The Daily Show", but I can watch that on-line - so really, why do I have cable?

One day this week (Saturday, I think) there were two items in the mail that started me seriously thinking about dumping cable. One was a flyer from Fairpoint, the telephone company, advertising high speed internet service for an introductory rate of $19.99 per month. The other was a mailing from COMCAST detailing changes to TV and internet access effective on March 24, 2011. Now I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent consumer but honestly, I could not make heads or tails of the changes COMCAST is making. I'm pretty sure, though, that if I just keep the services I have now it's going to cost me more (I currently pay more than $115.00 per month.)

By my calculations if I dump COMCAST and switch my internet access to Fairpoint I stand to save about $95.00 every month. So the question is, do I watch enough cable shows to justify the extra expense? Oh, there will be some other "costs" associated with the switch, primarily the inconvenience of having to change my email address again (I just did it with the SUSCOM/COMCAST transition), but is that worth $95.00 a month? The answer is becoming increasingly clear: NO.

So I am pretty sure that in the next month or so I am going to "pull the plug" on COMCAST and be without cable television for the first time in 30 years or so. And I think I am OK with that, but if I go into total withdrawal there's alway Direct TV or Dish Network - they always advertise great packages for new subscribers.